Last Tuesday, the Democratic Party took a “shellacking” from the GOP, which enjoyed the largest House victory since 1948. Most governorships went Republican, too, while the Senate came nail-bitingly close to a 50/50 split. “On fiscal and social policy, polling data shows a major overlap between the Tea Party and the middle class, UR English Professor Curt Smith said, summing up the elections. I wonder, is that true?
The Tea Party burst onto the scene back in 2009 with “non-negotiable core beliefs.” This article is not a full critique of Tea Partiers, nor of their GOP allies, but I disagree with their principles. To deregulate big business would return us to Bush-style economics — corruption and negligence on Wall Street and an unstable housing market, the causal mechanisms of the recession. Cutting taxes will not reign in the deficit, for how can we pay off our debts without taxes?
Still, I am not an economist, so maybe the newly elected Tea Partiers and Republicans will fix the economy. Maybe. Since they got elected by saying “no” to everything President Obama has done, I doubt they have much besides sound bites for fixing the economy.
Perhaps that is my own bias coming into play. Until Election Day, I truly believed that Tea Partiers like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul would lose. I thought that average Americans, discontent as they are about the economy, would not agree with Tea Partiers’ social beliefs. For example, a majority of Americans now support gay marriage, which neoconservative politicians detest. Similarly, most Americans take no issue with the Department of Education, an organization targeted for destruction by the Tea Party. Yet I was wrong — the Democrats were soundly defeated.
On Election Day, I watched CNN in outright horror — I won’t deny it — as the GOP and Tea Party won. America has weathered nearly every kind of lame politician imaginable, but the Tea Party’s anti-intellectual leanings, compounded by the dismantle-the-federal-government brouhaha of the GOP, struck me as particularly low. Then, during the broadcast, I had a slight change of heart.
When GOP Representative John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House, gave his victory speech last Tuesday, something very surprising happened. Boehner cried as he spoke about his origins — coming from a large family, working his way through college, struggling to make ends meet as a small businessman. Boehner showed honest emotion that night.
I had forgotten that, beneath all his anti-government rhetoric, his habit for dodging detailed questions and his posturing, John Boehner is still a man. In disagreeing with neoconservatives, I had built them up as anti-democratic boogeymen when they are, in fact, ordinary people. By refusing to listen to anything neocons said, I forgot about civil discourse and listening to other perspectives — those cardinal virtues of democracy. During the campaign of 2010, I became the stereotypical liberal against whom the neocons rail.
Watching him cry, I realized Boehner truly believes in deconstructing the government. I might disagree with his policies, but I cannot deny his sincerity. And I found myself agreeing with Boehner that government spending can be trimmed. It’s an interesting dilemma for me — I oppose the repealing of health care, the dismantling of the Department of Education and Wall Street deregulation, yet I cannot deny the waste on Capitol Hill. Look at our sprawling intelligence service, or the pork tacked onto every bill.
I still don’t believe that Tea Party and GOP contrarians speak for all middle class Americans. Times are changing, and soon even diehard neocons won’t be able to stop gay marriage, nor will they be able to wholly dismantle the machine that is the federal government. But the neocons might be onto something with tightening the government’s belt. If Boehner can elicit my sympathy, then perhaps he can get to Middle America’s. In that way, I do agree with Professor Smith.



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